Businesses are always on the hunt for new ways to stand out from the competition. No one knows this better than a B2B marketing team. The fight for brand supremacy is the driving force behind almost any marketing campaign and for years, marketers have focused those campaigns on the top of the sales funnel.
How can we convert more prospects to leads and more leads to customers?
That was the central question behind most marketing strategies. In the early days of big data, the answer was simpler than it had ever been before. Marketers leveraged demographic and behavioral data in new, innovative ways that gave early adopters a competitive edge unparalleled by any previous revolution in the marketing world.
With what result?
Marketers (finally) have a quantitative ROI they could attribute to their campaigns.
However, as big data became more and more accessible and recognized as a “must-have” for businesses to remain relevant, the ability to differentiate yourself from the competition became increasingly difficult. Your personalized email means a lot less to a lead who receives a similar personalized message from four of your competitors also.
As a result, marketers are now ushering in a new era of big data. Where previous efforts focused almost exclusively on lead generation, B2B marketers are now recognizing that the ultimate value of big data lies in generating demand for your solution at all stages of the customer journey.
Thus, demand generation was born.
This post explores the way big data plays into each stage of the customer journey from the perspective of a B2B marketer whose focus is on creating brand stickiness through demand generation.
From the early stages of customer awareness all the way through to retention and brand loyalty, this post provides strategies for keeping your customers engaged and building brand champions through content creation.
Awareness and Consideration
You are probably thinking: Didn’t you just say demand generation shifts attention away from the top of the sales funnel?
Not exactly. To be 100 percent clear, lead generation is still a key component of a demand generation strategy; it is just not the only part. After all, you will not have many customers in the later stages of the customer journey if you are not working to attract them to your business in the first place.
For anyone unfamiliar, the “Awareness” stage of the customer journey is where prospects are born. Businesses are just becoming aware of a specific problem in need of solving and, through the power of big data, marketers can track activities historically associated with the early stages of lead development to begin the sales process.
Prospects become leads at the “Consideration” stage, where not only are they aware of their problem, but also now committed to finding a solution for that problem. At this stage, they are weighing options, reading up on you and your competitors, and determining the best fit for their business.
In the past, lead generation efforts focused primarily on “quick fixes”: things like banner ads and promoted content on Facebook or Twitter to get a company’s name in front of a prospect at this early stage. In the past, that was often as far as it went. 79 percent of all marketing leads never actually convert into customers and a lack of lead nurturing is the primary cause.
This is why demand marketers take lead generation activities a step further.
Instead of a quick fix, demand marketers will reach out directly on Twitter to a user voicing a problem that could potentially be fixed with their solution. Demand marketers offer free consultations and link prospects to thought leadership content with a focus on adding value, not selling a solution. They host webinars with industry influencers, share case studies and white papers, record podcasts, and essentially do everything they can to get their brand name stuck in the minds of future customers.
47 percent of buyers view 3 to 5 pieces of content before speaking with a sales representative, so it is in your best interests to be sure prospects are viewing your content and not that of your competitors.
A more traditional marketer might think: Well, then I’ll wait and focus all my efforts on catching them right before they’re ready to have that conversation.
Sadly, that will not work.
That is because 95 percent of buyers chose the company that provided them with relevant thought leadership through every stage of the buying process.
The lesson here is that lead generation of course matter immensely, but take the time and make the effort to provide quality thought leadership at these early stages of the customer journey rather than waiting to pounce at the acquisition stage.
This is where the traditional lead generation of the past effectively ends. The old belief is that the role of a marketer officially ends once a lead crosses over the line from the “Consideration” to the “Acquisition” stage. That is where a salesperson would take over and do what they do best: close the deal.
Of course, demand marketers now know that is an antiquated way to think of the relationship between sales and marketing. At all stages of the customer journey, the two branches of your business should be working hand-in-hand. Sales helps define what a quality lead looks like, marketing helps get those leads across the finish line by providing collateral that helps promote the sales pitch.
Unfortunately, this is not happening as much as one might expect. In fact, 65 percent of sales reps say their biggest difficulty is finding the content they need to send to leads.
Another study shows up to 30 percent of a sales rep’s time is spent searching for and customizing content for leads. That is almost 50 hours a month that reps are wasting on a process that could be supported by a solid demand marketing strategy.
Getting involved at the “Acquisition” stage means sharing relevant competitive data, case studies and testimonials, and valuable stats for pitch decks. It means creating a content library from which reps can easily pull information, but it also means working with sales behind the scenes to craft the right message that will convert the lead to a new customer.
Service and Loyalty
Another major realization of demand generation was the concept of the customer journey is cyclical, not at all linear as it had once been treated.
This ties back to the original point about the wealth of big data available to everyone, including your competitors. Your current customers are likely well aware of your competitors and their offers just by nature of being your customer. Therefore, current customers are perpetually in the “Consideration” stage, whether actively or not. At any point, they could presumably be enticed to jump ship, unless you give them a reason to stay.
That is why marketing at the “Service” and “Loyalty” stages have risen as a top priority for demand marketers. Top-notch customer experience is no longer a niche attribute for a successful business; it needs to be a defining characteristic of how you operate at each step on the customer journey.
At the “Service” stage, this manifests as a first-in-class training and resource program. While marketers typically do not own responsibility for training customers directly, they are in the best position to recognize yellow flags that signal a customer in need of extra help.
Furthermore, continuously sharing tips, tricks, and best practices for extracting the maximum value from your solution most certainly falls under the umbrella of marketing. Depending on customer engagement, this could mean a personalized phone call or an automated email; either way, it is about not unplugging as soon as you have a signed contract, but instead taking advantage of the opportunity to turn your engagement with the customer up to 11.
It is not all just about preventing churn, however. There is also more opportunity to be had. Big data has opened doors to better calculations of customer lifetime value. Demand marketers can strategically position upsell or cross-sell products and services throughout the customer lifecycle to try and maximize the long-term value of your current customers.
The second source of opportunity comes in the form of customer advocacy. This is where the “Loyalty” stage comes in. Once you have created a customer experience worth raving about (through continuous engagement with valuable content), your customers become their own referral engine. Not only do you no longer need to fear them jumping ship to a competitor, but you can also now rely on them to potentially deliver leads to your doorstep.
ReachForce helps marketers increase revenue contribution by solving some of their toughest data management problems. We understand the challenges of results-driven marketers and provide solutions to make initiatives like marketing automation, personalization, and predictive marketing better. Whether you have an acute pain to solve today or prefer to grow your capabilities over time, ReachForce can unify, clean, and enrich prospect and customer lifecycle data in your business, and do it at your own pace.